Lali,iconic character for those who have lived in his times and even for those who have heard stories woven around him,has been immortalised by well known Canada-based Punjabi poet Navtej Bharti. Bharti has penned a long poem on Lali,which has now taken the shape of a book titled Lali which will be released on Tuesday by Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jaspal Singh.
The book is also a tribute to the legendary Bhootwara (ghost house) where Lali,Dr Sutinder Singh Noor,Dr Gubhagat Singh,Harinder Mehboob,Navtej Bharti,Prem Pali,Amarjit Sathi,Surjit Lee,Kulwant Grewal to name a few,lived. All these names form a formidable group of Punjabi intelligentsia to date. This book also contains sketches drawn by well known Delhi-based painter Sidharth.
Prof Hardaljit Singh has taught in Punjabi University,Patiala. He is Lali for his contemporaries,Lali sir for his students and Lali baba for those who have heard about him.
For me,Lali is the figurehead,a symbol. He is not a historical character but a Sutardhaar who brought for us a whole new world of literature,films,art. For us,he was the magnet that brought us all together and kept us that way for years, said Navtej Bharti whose 1,000-page book Leela,co-authored with his younger brother Ajmer Rode,is considered a classic in Punjabi poetry.
The Bhootwara (ghost house) was set up in the early 60s when we all were studying at Mahindra College,Patiala. At that time the Punjabi department was located there. This place was called Bhootwara and we were called Bhoot or Ghosts for we would spend the nights awake discussing world literature,philosophy,art any thing and everything that we could lay our hands on. Lali would read for us and discussions would then roll out. It is true that till date Lali has not written a single word. He is an orator and belongs to the Oral Tradition but I also strongly hold that whatever we all have been writing belongs to Lali. A large part our works are actually his, added Bharti.
Navtej Bharti began writing this book almost 10 years ago. It has taken me a decade to complete this book for I could not find the format for it. At first I began writing in rhythm but Lalis style has always been prose. So I chose the style of narrative poetry. The characters of this book are my friends and contemporaries who have lived with us during those times. The incidents and stories may not exactly be there but the concepts like death,body,katha,need of katha in our lives are all something that Lali has helped us in,led to us uncover, explained Bharti.